This is Part Three of a three-part series on Conscious Discipline consequences. If you missed it, catch up on Part One and Part Two.

In Part One of this series, we discussed building a foundation of safety, connection, and vital skills before consequences can be effective. In Part Two, we shared the three types of consequences, along with tips on how and when to deliver them.

Despite these explanations and tips, we understand that Conscious Discipline consequences can be difficult to master. Using consequences effectively requires you to shift your mindset, which is no easy task. It also requires you to learn new skills, because you can’t teach a child a skill that you don’t possess yourself.

In Part Three, we’ve created an easy to understand guide designed to help you put the information in Parts One and Two into practice. Read on for answers to frequently asked questions, plus helpful examples of how to handle common discipline scenarios the Conscious Discipline way.

Frequently Asked Questions About Conscious Discipline Consequences

Here are answers to some of the consequence-related questions we hear most often.

Does Conscious Discipline have consequences?

Yes. Conscious Discipline utilizes effective consequences by first building a foundation of safety, connection, and teaching missing skills. “Consequences” is the last chapter in the Conscious Discipline book because it requires the preceding six skills to be effective.

This foundation allows children to truly learn from consequences, fostering permanent behavior change. Learn more about this essential foundation in Part One of this series.

Why do the same children end up with the same consequences over and over?

Most people have confused consequences with punishments. So you will see the same children receiving the same punishments over and over or receiving intensified punishments. This is not because these children are bad, stubborn, or unintelligent.  It is because we have not clearly understood how to deliver effective consequences.

For a logical consequence to work, it must be applied to a connected child who already possesses the desired skill. The same children receive the same punishment again and again because they are disconnected (“I don’t care”) or lack the needed skills to be successful.

Conscious Discipline disrupts this cycle by empowering adults to first connect with children, then coach children with the new skill(s) needed through administering natural consequences. Then, when you introduce a logical consequence, it will be effective.

So, Conscious Discipline can help adults make children behave?

No. Conscious Discipline teaches adults to help children be successful, which results in changed behavior. If your intent is to make children behave, your efforts will be ineffective. Conscious Discipline gives you the skills to shift your intention to “helping children be successful.”

All behavior is a form of communication. Instead of seeing bad behavior as a sign that a child is inherently bad, you will learn to see behavior as a sign that the child is missing a skill. Instead of trying to control the situation or control the child, you will learn to teach the child the skill that he or she is missing.

You will also help the child reflect on the impact of their choices on themselves and others and take responsibility for their actions.

How do I know when a child needs more safety and/or connection?

When a child continues to repeat the same behavior, we must evaluate: Is the child missing a skill? Does the child feel unsafe? Does the child feel disconnected?

Generally, children who repeatedly exhibit physical behaviors (hitting, poking, throwing items, etc.) need safety. They are not able to answer the question, “Am I safe?” with a resounding, “Yes!” Increase their sense of safety with the acronym NARCS:

Children who engage in power struggles or exhibit “attention-seeking” behaviors are seeking connection. They cannot answer the question, “Am I loved?” with a resounding, “Yes!” Build connection using the acronym REJECT:

  • Rituals for connection
  • Encouragement for any success, however small
  • Jobs and opportunities to be of service to others
  • Empathy when experiencing upset
  • Choices to provide focus in overwhelming situations (offer two positive choices)
  • The School Family– and coaching to help them become an integral part of this family

When a child feels safe and loved, the child is willing to build new skills and learn from consequences.

Once children are safe, connected, and have the skills, how do I give a consequence?

There are three types of consequences: natural, logical, and problem-solving:

  • Natural: Require no prearranged adult planning or control; are the most powerful motivator for children to learn a new skill. In this scenario, offer empathy and help the child reflect on and learn new strategies. Use with connected children to respond to rule-breaking, disregarding routines, tattling, and other everyday conflicts.
  • Logical: Are prearranged by adults and motivate children to use skills they already have. The formula is: “You can choose to ______ (positive action) and ___________ (positive consequence), OR you can choose to ________(negative action) and __________(negative consequence), so everyone is safe, including you.” Logical consequences must be related, respectful, reasonable, and delivered with empathy.
  • Problem-Solving: Motivate children to become part of the solution through the use of shared power. This is typically practiced through class meetings or the Conflict Resolution Time Machine. Use for chronic problems or issues that involve the whole class.

Read Part Two of this series for an in-depth guide on when and how to use the three types of consequences effectively, and read on for some practical examples.

What should I do when the child has an outburst after I deliver a consequence?

One of the most difficult parts of giving a consequence is handling the backlash of a child’s reaction. If we say the consequence of a hurtful action is working at a table alone, the most difficult part often happens when it is time for the child to move to the assigned table.

The child’s reaction could be a verbal or physical outburst as the child attempts to blame us for the emotions bubbling within. (In Conscious Discipline, we often use the beach ball metaphor—in this case, the child is throwing his or her ball back at us. For the consequence to be effective, we must ensure that the child is holding his or her own ball.) Gently return ownership by following consequences with empathy instead of lectures, admonishment, or punishment.

This removes the excuse that we are picking on the child, don’t like the child, etc. Now, the child must take personal responsibility and reflect on the consequences of his or her actions, making the consequence effective.

Common Discipline Scenarios with Conscious Discipline Consequences

The scripts below will show you how to handle common discipline scenarios using the language and skills of Conscious Discipline. Feel free to customize the delivery in a way that sounds natural to you, but ensure that your message and intention remain the same.

Scenario 1: Child forgets homework

Consequence Type: Natural consequence

What to Do:

Student: I did my homework. I just forgot to bring it in. I can bring it in tomorrow.

Teacher: Homework was due today and it will not be accepted tomorrow.

Student: That’s crap! I hate you. I did it. This isn’t fair.

Teacher: You seem frustrated. It’s disappointing to spend time doing your homework and not get the credit. Take a few deep breaths. Calm down and let’s work together on a plan to make sure you bring it on time in the future.

Scenario 2: Tattling

Consequence Type: Natural consequence (The natural consequence of tattling is assertiveness training.)

What to Do:

Child: Liam is not cleaning up!

Adult: Are you telling me to be helpful or hurtful?

Child: Hurtful.

Adult: What could you do that would be helpful?

Child: I don’t know.

Adult: You could say, “Liam, would you like some help cleaning up?”

Alternatively, the child might say that they are telling you to be helpful. In that case, respond:

Adult: How is telling me about Liam being helpful to Liam?

Child: He is supposed to clean up. We all have to clean up!

Adult: So, you want Liam to be successful in our School Family and follow our agreements? How could you help him remember to clean up?

Child: I don’t know.

Adult: You could say, “Liam, would you like some help cleaning up?”

NOTE: This tattling scenario is an example of revenge tattling. Intrusion tattling and safety tattling require different responses. Read Part Two of this series for an explanation of each tattling type and how to handle them.

Scenario 3: Child hitting or poking others

Consequence Type: Logical consequence

What to Do:

Adult: Jessica, you have a choice. You can choose to build with your friends and play together for the rest of center time, or you can choose to hit your friends and play by yourself at the table, so everyone is safe, including you. Jessica, tell me what will happen if you hit your friends again so I know you understand.

Jessica repeats the consequence and the adult checks for clarity. Jessica chooses the positive alternative for the rest of center time.

Adult: You did it! You can do this!

Scenario 4: Child grabbing/snatching instead of asking for a turn

Consequence Type: Logical consequence

What to Do:

Adult: Max, you have a choice. You can say, “May I have a turn?” when you want an item your friend has and continue working in your small group, or you can grab again, and you will work alone in this chair for the rest of the day so both you and your friends are safe. Max, tell me what will happen if you grab from your friends again so I know you understand.

Max repeats the consequence and the adult checks for clarity. As soon as the adult turns her back, Max grabs again.

Adult: Max, I can see by your actions that you have chosen to sit at this table (point at location) and work alone. Pick up your papers and move to the table.

Max: I won’t do it again! I promise. He grabbed it first! I was just getting it back. Give me one more chance, please! I’ll be good!

Adult: You seem disappointed. You were hoping you could stay with your friends and work together. You will have another chance tomorrow. Breathe with me. You’re safe. Pick up your papers. You can handle this!

Scenario 5: Child turns in assignment with many mistakes

Consequence Type: Natural consequence

What to Do:

Teacher: You have a choice. You can choose to correct your mistakes and improve your grade, or you can choose to turn the assignment in as it is and receive an F. It’s up to you.

If the student chooses to correct mistakes, offer help and encouragement. If the student refuses to correct the mistakes, say, “I can tell by your actions you’re choosing to receive an F.” Offer empathy and suggest that you and the student make a plan to avoid the same occurrence in the future.

Scenario 6: Bad report card/ “I don’t care”

Consequence Type: Natural consequence

What to Do:

Adult: How is this report card for you?

Child: I don’t care. I hate school.

Adult: So, the D’s don’t bother you at all?

Child: No, I don’t care about them or the C’s or the B.

Adult: You seem hopeless and angry. You want school and maybe other things to just go away? (Child pauses and raises eyebrows, indicating to the adult that she has his attention.) With D’s on your report card, you will be suspended from the soccer team until you bring them up. Remember your agreement with the coach?

Child: I don’t care.

Adult: It’s hard to feel hopeless. Nothing feels like it really matters. (Adult breathes deeply and thinks of something that really matters to the child.) Isn’t your best friend who moved to another school on the soccer team? It seems it would be hard not to see him anymore. (Child looks up, makes eye contact, and appears shocked to hear this.)

Child: Well, maybe, but you could take me to see him.

Adult: Maybe, or you can work with me to get those grades up and then you will definitely see him every week. Then you would be in charge.

Child: Okay. (Child rolls eyes and walks away.)

Scenario 7: Children continuing with hurtful behavior/not listening to classmate’s BIG Voices

Consequence Type: Problem-solving

What to Do:

Follow the PEACE process:

  • Problem and impact are stated
  • Encourage the children to own their part of the problem
  • Affirm the problem, restating it in terms of what you want to happen
  • Collect solutions and come to a consensus
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the initial plan

State Problem and impact: I’ve noticed that when children use their BIG Voices, some friends are not listening and continue with hurtful behavior instead. This is a problem for me because my job is to keep the classroom safe, and I can’t do my job if you are not willing to listen to each other’s BIG Voices. The classroom becomes unsafe, and learning suffers.

Encourage the children to own the problem: Have any of you noticed something similar? For example, you might have said, “I don’t like it when you bump me in line. Please walk carefully behind me,” and some children continue to bump you or say, “So what?” (Give specific examples that you have witnessed without mentioning names.)

Affirm the problem: So, the problem is remembering to listen to each other’s BIG Voices.

Collect helpful solutions: What would help you remember to listen to your friends’ BIG Voices? (Collect opinions and summarize solutions into common threads. Restate the common thread solution(s) into a new class agreement or rule. Role play how to use the new skill.)

Evaluate to see if it’s working: How will we know if our solution is working? (Create a way to measure the success of your solution. Meet again to check on the plan, then celebrate success or do additional problem-solving if needed.)

Final Thoughts

We hope that this three-part series on Conscious Discipline consequences has been helpful! Shifting our mindset about behavior, punishments, and consequences is never easy—but it is always worth it.

We can’t change a child’s behavior by punishing them for lacking skills they have never been taught. We can’t force a disconnected child to care using punishments or rewards. And we can’t teach children responsibility by demanding or threatening them into admitting their mistakes.

We teach responsibility by creating the safety and connection needed for children to take ownership, reflect, and listen to the messages their feelings provide about their impact on the world. Only through this approach can we give consequences that motivate children to change their behavior.

Invest in the time and effort needed to deliver impactful, lasting consequences, and you’ll invest in the future of our children and our society.